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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Chain Mail by Ishizaki Hiroshi 
23rd-Nov-2007 09:09 pm
Ishizaki, Hiroshi. Chain Mail: Addicted to You. Trans. Richard S. Kim and Rachael Manija Brown. Los Angeles: TOKYOPOP, 2007.
          Summary: Armed with cell phones and Internet connections, four teenage girls dissatisfied with the life they're living decide to create a new one--a collaborative work of fiction called "Chain Mail." But as the real worlds and the virtual worlds start to blur, it turns out that life's troubles aren't so easily resolved...
          Comments: Okay, so it turns out that Sawako actually invented the Chain Mail game herself, intended to play all four parts herself, and ended up playing both the heroine and the stalker. It also turned out that Mayumi assumed Sawako's heroine character after the real Sawako disappeared briefly. While both of these pivotal plot twists are interesting, they were not, I believe, sufficiently foreshadowed and came too abruptly. This is the novel's primary flaw. Otherwise, it's reasonably entertaining and even a bit intellectual. The characters quote and paraphrase Nietzsche extensively, although the main mental exercise involves the social uses and implications of technology (a.k.a. cellphones and the Internet). The eventual conclusion advocates social cohesion in a very Japanese (but profoundly un-Nietzsche-ish) way and implicitly argues that the Internet, though it may seem to lead to escapism and fracture of the social fabric, in fact reinforces it. Isn't that comforting to all you (over)wired people out there?
          The English prose of this novel is the most lucid and literate of any of TOKYOPOP's Pop Fiction releases that I've read thus far. I'm sure credit goes to both Ishizaki and Rachael Manija Brown. My main gripe with the translation--and it's a biggie--is that it reads too much like overwrought fanfiction, and I don't know who takes the blame for that. By the way, this is not a light novel, which may also go a long way toward explaining the relatively high quality...and all that philosophizing. In any case, Chain Mail is a decent niche title--especially those interested in contemporary Japanese fiction and/or youth culture.
          Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Kodansha in 2003
          Rating: 5.5/10 - A solid addition to the Pop Fiction line; I'd like to see more. (I know, I know. Fat chance of that, right? *sighs*)
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